CD and ITB share many similarities in clinical manifestations and signs, which makes their differentiation difficult . Some studies have proposed certain criteria for identifying CD and ITB, but these criteria have been shown to have many limitations [19-21]. In this study, common symptoms of CD and ITB, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea and ascites, had no significant differences between the two groups. The number of perianal lesions was significantly higher in patients with CD than in patients with ITB, suggesting that perianal lesions had certain value for the differentiation of the two diseases. Perianal lesions are often the first symptom of CD and closely related to disease activity. Therefore, clinicians should pay close attention to them. The present study showed that the incidence of longitudinal ulcer and stenosis was significantly higher in patients with CD than in patients with ITB. Also, the incidence of annular ulcer was significantly higher in patients with ITB than in patients with CD. These data were consistent with previous findings [22, 23], and suggested that the longitudinal ulcer and stenosis were the characteristic manifestations of CD and the annular ulcer was the characteristic manifestation of ITB. The pathological changes in CD and ITB usually occur in the submucosa of the intestinal wall. Because of mucosal swelling, the endoscopic biopsy tissues tend to be small and the sampling is superficial, resulting in low positive rates. In the present study, only three cases of caseating granuloma were detected in ITB endoscopic biopsy, while the pathological positive rate was much lower than that of surgical specimens, suggesting that the differential diagnostic value of endoscopic biopsy specimens in the two diseases was much lower than that of surgical specimens. Non-caseating granuloma was more common in patients with ITB than in patients with CD, but with no statistically significant difference. Non-caseating granuloma alone is not enough to completely exclude ITB and should not be considered as a CD-specific manifestation.
At present, the WHO recommends Xpert MTB/RIF for the rapid diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis and some forms of extrapulmonary tuberculosis [24, 25]. Reports on Xpert MTB/RIF detection in intestinal mucosa in China and abroad are few [26, 27]. In the present study, the intestinal tissue specimens from 42 patients with ITB and 46 with CD were examined by Xpert MTB/RIF. The results showed that the positive rate of MTBC detected by Xpert MTB/RIF in intestinal tissue samples of patients with ITB was 33.33%, which was higher than that of patients with CD (0%), and the specificity was 100%. This finding suggested that the detection of Xpert MTB/RIF in intestinal mucosa might have an important role in the differential diagnosis of ITB and CD. In a retrospective study in India ,of 37 patients with ITB, Xpert MTB/RIF analysis was performed on colonic biopsy samples from 37 patients with ITB , revealing that the assay had low sensitivity (8.1%) . In this study, the positive rate of MTBC detected by Xpert MTB/RIF was much lower in endoscopic biopsy specimens compared with surgical specimens, which might be because the endoscopic biopsy specimens were superficial and small. MTBC was not evenly distributed in intestinal tissues, and low levels of MTBC extracted from mucosal biopsy specimens might lead to false-negative results of Xpert MTB/RIF in tissues. The new Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra (Xpert Ultra) has been recently developed to boost the sensitivity for the detection of MTBC not only in patients with paucibacillary TB, but also in pediatric patients with TB and those with extrapulmonary TB[28-29].However, the increase in sensitivity provided by Xpert Ultra came at the expense of a modest reduction in specificity.
The gold standard for the etiological diagnosis of tuberculosis is MTBC culture. However, the growth of MTBC usually takes 3-8 weeks, and the positive rate of culture is low, which often causes difficulties in diagnosis. Although the routine acid-fast staining method takes only 2-3 h, this approach has very low sensitivity and specificity of strain identification. It can detect the acid-fast Mycobacterium, but it cannot distinguish MTBC from other mycobacteria. The sensitivity and accuracy of PCR for pathogen detection provides a useful and new method for diagnosing MTBC [30-32].In this study, the detection of MTBC in the intestinal mucosa by Xpert MTB/RIF was compared with the detection by traditional methods.The results showed that the sensitivity of Xpert MTB/RIF was 33.3%, which was significantly higher than that of acid-fast staining (11.9%) and higher than that of bacillus culture (21.4%). The results indicated that Xpert MTB/RIF had superior sensitivity comparedwith acid-fast staining in detecting MTBC.It also had superior detection time and higher specificity compared with MTBC culture. Therefore, the Xpert MTB/RIF was better approach for the early diagnosis and treatment of ITB.
MTBC culture with Mycobacterium Growth Indicator Tube (MGIT) system was reported to be positive in 20% –42% of colonoscopic biopsy specimens[31-32]. In the present study,the positive rate of MTBC detected by tissue culture in patients with ITB was 21.43%(7.14% in biopsy specimens and 50% in 14 surgical specimens,LJ medium). The lower yield of MTBC culture in biopsy specimens might be associated with the culture medium and the number of colonoscopic biopsies.The yield of MTBC culture on the LJ medium was lower than that on the MGIT system. However, the false-positive rates for the MGIT system was higher than those for LJ methods. A recent report showed thatan additional four (total eight) colonoscopic biopsies improved the yield of TB culture positivity over four biopsies by 11.4%–14.3%. Increasing the number of colonoscopic biopsy specimens to eight should be considered for improving AFB culture positivity, although it takes more time.
Increasing attention has been paid to the study of MTBC antigen following the development of immune technology in recent years [13, 36]. At present, the main samples used for MTBC antigen diagnosis are body fluid and bacterial culture medium [37, 38]. Reports on the application of tuberculosis antigen in ITB tissues are very rare. Only two reports on 38KDa antigen with a limited number of ITB cases (≤10 cases) are available. Ihama et al. performed the immunohistochemical detections of 38KDa antigen in intestinal paraffin-embedded specimens of 10 patients with ITB, revealing that 40% of the patients were positive, which in turn suggested that immunohistochemical detection with MTBC monoclonal antibody might be an effective and simple diagnostic method for ITB . Ince and colleagues performed the immunohistochemical detection of 38KDa antigen in 45 tissue specimens (including 8 colon tissue specimens, 8 skin specimens, 5 lung tissue specimens and 24 lymph node specimens) . They found that 73% of patients with TB were positive, while only 2 of 28 patients with CD were positive, suggesting that immunohistochemical detection of 38KDa antigen could be used to distinguish ITB from CD . Currently, no reports are available on the expression of pstS1 (38KDa) and East-6 antigens in intestinal tissues. The results of this study showed that the expression of Ag85B, pstS1 (38KDa) and East-6 antigen proteins in ITB and CD had no significant difference. The positive expression rates of Ag85B, pstS1 (38KDa) and East-6 antigen in intestinal tissues were 9.52%, 23.8% and 26.2%, respectively. The sensitivity of the immunostaining detection of these three proteins in intestinal tissues was low and could not be improved by their combined detection. Future studies should investigate whether other detection methods such as PCR could improve the sensitivity.
Jørstad et al. used immunohistochemistry to detect the MPT64 antigen in 132 cases of extrapulmonary tuberculosis and non-tuberculosis specimens. MPT64 detection had the best performance in patients with TB lymphadenitis and children with TB, suggesting that MPT64 detection could be used for routine diagnosis under low resource allocation to improve the diagnosis of extrapulmonary tuberculosis, especially for patients with TB lymphadenitis and children with TB . Purohit et al. studied 51 cases of pulmonary tuberculosis and 38 control specimens of non-pulmonary tuberculosis.The results suggested that anti-MPT64 immunostaining detection was a rapid and sensitive method for the early specific diagnosis of M.tuberculosis infection . This technique can be easily used in routine pathological laboratories. Currently, no reports exist on the expression of MPT64 antigen in intestinal tissues. In this study, the positive rates of MPT64 antigen in ITB and CD were 40.48% and 19.58%, respectively. The observed difference was statistically significant, suggesting that theMPT64 antigen had definitive value in the differential diagnosis of ITB and CD. Sharma et al. used real-time immuno-PCR (RT-I-PCR) assay for the quantitative detection of a cocktail of mycobacterial MPT64 (Rv1980c) and PstS1 (Rv0934) in patients with TB. The RT-I-PCR assay revealed a high sensitivity of 83.3%, especially for the rapid diagnosis of smear-negative pulmonary TB and paucibacillary extrapulmonary TB . More studies are needed to investigate whether other methods such as PCR may improve the sensitivity of MPT64 antigen detection in intestinal tissues.